The truth is hard to find these days, even if you look for it.
In the jargon of the moment, we are inundated with misinformation and disinformation – what I like to call stupidity, lies and propaganda just to keep things simple.
In this vast darkness of confusion and the animosity it intentionally creates, there has emerged a hero, one whose weapon is truth: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
OK, OK, that’s persistent and my screenwriting Oscar isn’t coming anytime soon, but I bet you get the point. It’s hard not to like the guy at this special moment because today, for the second time in just over a year, he has offered us a strong dose of truthfulness and authenticity about current events that are otherwise awash in lies.
If you had better things to do than be on Twitter early Thursday, Schwarzenegger released a nine-minute video aimed at the people of Russia, expressing his respect for them while gutting Vladimir Putin’s state-controlled version of the invasion of Ukraine . By midday, it had been viewed nearly 6 million times on Twitter and 400,000 times on Telegram, a platform still available in Russia.
He describes his love for Russia and its people, beginning with meeting weightlifting champion Yuri Petrovich Vlasov in 1961, when he was 14 and had yet to lift a barbell to speak of. He spoke about his father being a Nazi and the guilt and pain this caused the elder Schwarzenegger throughout his life. He praised protesters and spoke directly to soldiers, telling them the war was illegal, perhaps hoping to inspire one fifth column — a term for groups of internal resistance fighters, open or clandestine. It was good stuff, the kind of plain language that makes you feel a little better after looking at the world.
“Look, there are moments like this that are so wrong, and that’s when we have to speak up,” he says, referring to the other video he took after the Jan. 6 riot in the US Capitol — which I’m going to get because it teaches a different and somewhat depressing lesson.
As Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, puts it, Schwarzenegger “exudes only sincerity.” That’s significant, because in what Levin calls “catalytic moments,” such as the possible build-up to World War III, people seek the truth but often settle for what feels best. Schwarzenegger has credibility and love within Russia, particularly among the older generation, who are more apt to believe state news that could “cross nationality” and “move the needle,” Levin said.
“In times of fear, anger, stress, and mutual validation, people who are left to their own devices will often give in to things that intoxicate against the fear, no matter how conflicting or wrong they may be,” says Levin. But this video “will speak all over Russia”.
The effect of the video was easy to see. Russian opposition politician Lubov Sobol tweeted, “Your opinion is very important to Russians, generations grew up watching you in movies,” hours after the video went live.
The former governor’s first attempts at statesmanship – his video about the uprising – was unfortunately less effective at waking up the brainwashed. He also used his personal story back then, talking about growing up in a country that had lost its own democracy, and comparing the Capitol Uprising to Kristallnacht, the night of broken glasses in 1938, a Nazi “rampage” against Jews , as he aptly described it.
“The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol, but the mob didn’t just smash the Capitol windows. They destroyed the ideas we took for granted,” he said of the uprising in a video that has racked up more than 40 million views.
He then attacked former President Trump for his campaign to annul the 2020 election and his untruth that the election was invalid due to fraud.
Trump “seeked a coup by misleading people with lies,” Schwarzenegger said. “[N]Regardless of your political affiliation, I ask that you join me in saying to President-elect Biden, “President-elect Biden, we wish you every success as our President. When you are successful, our nation is successful.”
That didn’t happen. Instead, just months later, “Let’s go, Brandon,” a youthful, profane phrase meant to belittle Biden, had become so ubiquitous it’s on Waren — and one far-right even shouted at it Biden when the President called to wish his family a Merry Christmas.
That Schwarzenegger failed to inspire a sense of unity in this country came as no surprise to Mia Bloom, an extremism expert and professor of communications and Middle Eastern studies at Georgia State University. Bloom, with whom I often speak about the infiltration of QAnon and conspiracy theories into the mainstream, said Schwarzenegger doesn’t have the same credibility with Trump supporters as he does with Russians and “isn’t the person to talk to people who are at the deepest.” recessions of conspiracy theories.”
Blame Celebrity Apprentice, QAnon and Trump, she said, who appears to be more powerful than Putin when it comes to keeping his true believers in line.
Schwarzenegger hosted the spinoff show, which Trump produced, and got into a public argument with him in 2017 over falling ratings – each blaming the other for the lack of viewers. Trump doesn’t like Schwarzenegger, which means his supporters don’t either. Add to that QAnon’s deep fears about Hollywood and the absurd but pervasive belief that its celebrities are involved in child trafficking, and there’s not much the Terminator can say that might change Trumpers’ minds. They would literally prefer to believe Putin, or at least Tucker Carlson, his American deputy.
That should give us all pause for thought, because while our focus is rightly on Ukraine, our own fight to protect democracy is still happening, albeit in slow motion.
Mike Madrid, the Republican political analyst who has long campaigned against his party’s slide into extremism, agrees that Schwarzenegger is unlikely to be a voice of reason for Trump supporters, but still sees two glimmers of hope when it comes to the former’s Presidents to break lies.
For one thing, America is focusing on international issues for the first time in years and is (largely) bipartisan in agreement that Russia is wrong. Madrid says polls show that “Russia has become the line that puts Donald Trump on the wrong side of the base by a wide margin, and that creates a problem.” That means there are indeed commonalities between Democrats and Republicans (although Madrid warns this will only last until Republicans can find a reason to attack Biden’s response). It’s a rare rift to exploit between Trump and his supporters.
And Schwarzenegger might buy something in that gap, even if it’s small. By speaking up, he creates a “permission structure” for dissenting opinions — someone whose words can resonate, even if it’s just a little chatter in the back of a staunch Republican mind, reminding Republicans who harbor doubts that ” there are other people like me, ”said Madrid.
“History is written on the sidelines,” he said. “It doesn’t take much,” just “enough people to do the right thing.”
Schwarzenegger is one of those people who do the right thing – simply because it’s just and important, beyond politics. And perhaps, if he keeps this up, his undeniable sincerity will resonate with enough people in the United States to make a difference, to widen the rift between Trump and his supporters enough for some truth to slip through.
Even if it’s only a few at a time, democracy needs people returning to fact and reason — especially with an upcoming election. That’s why “Schwarzenegger is so important,” said Levin, who plans to use the latest video as a teaching tool. “I just want to hug him.”
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-03-17/column-schwarzenegger-attacks-putins-lies-about-ukraine-its-a-sign-of-hope-for-the-truth Schwarzenegger can change his mind in Russia, but not in the US